Days 13-15: Benny and The Brat…

When believers go to third world countries, they are supposed to paint a church, run a vacation bible school, pass out bible tracts in the town square, hang mosquito nets as we pray over the children, COMPEL PEOPLE TO FOLLOW JESUS…right? That’s what I always thought, but here we are, in a third world country and none of the above have been on the itinerary. Instead, we’ve mostly hung out with our friends Amanda and Nunu, doing life with them, the way they do life. In fact, tonight for dinner we had DELICIOUS spaghetti with fresh tomato, tomato paste and a packet of “Benny”, a chicken bouillon that is used like crazy here. They intended to put canned tuna in it as well but I wrinkled my nose soo incredibly rudely at the mention of it that they graciously withheld it. When I heard tuna, it hit me sideways and I got a terrible image stuck in my head. Turns out, Africa hasn’t sucked the spoiled brat out of me completely…

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I’m not sure what I’m getting at other than confessing to you that I’m carrying some guilt, surrounding what we haven’t done on this trip, probably because of all the assumptions I made about what a trip like this is “supposed” to look like. I’m probably talking too soon about it because honestly, the more accurate emotion is confusion. Confusion because I feel deep inside me that God himself prompted us to come to Mozambique. Moreover, I’ve felt on several occasions since arriving that God has used Rebecca or one of the kids or even me, to remind Amanda and / or Nunu & Latino that God loves them so very much, that the work they are here to do is critical and beautiful,  and they are not in this alone. Wow, when I look at it here in black and white it makes more sense:)

Day 13 was Sunday. It truly was a day of rest. Late in the morning we all headed out to the Mango tree where Amanda had a really thoughtful environment all set up for us. My family and hers, sang some worship songs together and she shared a few words, and then she asked us some questions about our experience so far. She asked what has surprised us the most about Moz and what we think God has used the experience to teach us so far and a few other questions like that. Finally, Amanda asked us to take a few minutes to write a prayer, or a verse that we’d like to bury on the perimeter of the property, sort of like a prayer fence. Amanda and Nunu have done it as well as other visitors they’ve had so it’s a bit of a tradition. We all shared what we wrote with each other and then put them into old ketchup bottles and headed out to the lot were we have playing baseball to bury them. The whole thing went a long way towards reeling things back in and refocusing on Jesus. After this we spent the day at the beach and Rebecca and I continued to talk about the things Amanda helped us unpack in the morning. It was a great day.

Day 14 was yesterday (Monday). This was the beginning of the big “vacation” getaway of our trip. On this fine morning, we set out to the other side of Pemba where we were supposed to be meeting up with a boat that would take us on the final leg of the journey. Prior to parking the car near the water, we drove around Pemba for a while as Amanda and Nunu shared what they new about different neighborhoods and buildings, sharing stories as we went along. Eventually Nunu pulled over and went to have a conversation with a man standing in front of a rusty gate. Before long he jogged back across the street and assured us that we were in the right place. The old man opened the gate and we drove in and through to a small area behind a house right on the beach. Admittedly, it was a really strange start. Nunu parked the car and three super thin, super mangy dogs crept out from behind things to have a look at us. Their ribs were visible and they all had open sores on their ears and shoulders that were being swarmed by flies. It was quiet inside the car, none of us knew quite what to say…so we just stared at these poor dogs. Finally Amanda said that it felt like were on the set of an ASPCA commercial and that comment seemed to give us all permission to breath and speak to how disturbing the sight was. Now we needed to get out of the car and get ourselves, our bags and the kids across the parking area and through a small gate and out onto the beach. One thing at a time… At this moment, we just wanted to make sure the kids didn’t touch the dogs as they looked very sick. Thankfully, a man wearing a shirt displaying the name of the place we were headed appeared on the scene. He said something to Nunu and then reached in and heaved our largest duffle bag onto his shoulder and started walking…we did our best to follow. We successfully made it onto the sandy beach and were immediately greeted by dozens of local children. One little girl not older than 6 just walked up along side me and slid her hand into mine as I walked, like we’d always known each other. The simple gesture melted my heart…and broke it, in a single second. So much was going on in this moment. All seven of us and our stuff were walking across the beach and towards the water, presumably to the small wooden boat that was about 2 football fields out into the water. Sure enough, we hit the waters edge and kept right on walking. The tide was out so the boat had to be quite far from the shore in order to have enough water to float. Ankle deep for a while, then shins, then knees…made it! We hopped into the small wooden boat and the guy that had been leading us grabbed a 12 ft long bamboo pole and started pushing on the ocean floor, guiding the craft out to deeper water. Once we got to 3 or 4 feet of water, the other man fired up the 50hp Evenrude outboard and we were off!

The ride was short, about 20 minutes. Apparently we could have driven as well but it takes 5 hours. Same story on the destination shore. The boat stopped a long way from the shore and we had to walk through the water in order to get to the steps leading up to Arti Pemba Lodge. Literally, steps came down all the way into the water and we walked up and onto a beautiful landing covered by a tiki style thatched roof. At the top we were greeted warmly by a white lady with purple pants and a floral print shirt. She reminded me of home, like someone you might see through the window of a State Farm insurance office on Main Street, happily typing away at her desk. Once we all made it to the top and onto the landing, she introduced herself officially, with a thick South African accent, and motioned to a small table she had prepared. On it, there were 7 small chrome goblets. In each goblet, was ice cold pineapple juice, about 2 ounces. We all tipped them back and off we went on a quick tour of the property and then to our bungalows. Everything was just right. Every inch of the place seemed to be put together as thoughtfully as the goblet table we’d just enjoyed. Vacation feelings were rising up in everyone. Easier smiles, slower strides, eager faces on the kids. Lunch was waiting for us in the outdoor restaurant and since we were the only guests on the property, there was no wait:) We had beef lasagna. It was very good. I’m not sure what kind of cheese was used but not ricotta. I think it may have been cream-cheese inside and mozzarella on top because it was incredibly creamy.

From lunch until dinnertime, Rebecca and I and the kids decided to venture off on a little hike to the beach on the other side of the island. It turned out to be a longer hike than anticipated. From the time we left out bungalow to the time our feet hit the white sandy beach was one hour. I suspect it was about 1.5 miles. We were moving at a pretty slow pace as Indiana had some pretty serious blisters on his heels from the water shoes.

The beach was awesome. 80 degree water and big powerful waves. I even went in! I walked out until the water was up to my waist and just waited. The very first wave that came, knocked me right to by behind and then proceeded to suck me under for a moment. I stood up and planted my feet, determined to overpower the next one. In it came and with all my strength I was able to remain standing…but the next one got me again. I’ve been thinking about it all day, how powerful the ocean is. Reminds me that how “tough” you are depends on who you ask. Sure, ask your kids and they’ll admit that your tough, but ask the ocean and she’ll answer your question by simply putting you on your rear-end.

We played for a while and then headed back in time to relax for a while before dinner. There was a nice dog and her two puppies running around the property so the little guys were in heaven. Decker went out in the kayak for a little while.

Dinner was even better than lunch. Rebecca, Amanda and Decker had filet of beef. The rest of us had fresh fish and prawns. Good music playing softly, ocean in the distance, broad smiles all around. A night to remember.

Off to bed after dinner and then up early for breakfast at 8:00 am. Simple scrambled eggs with fresh tomato and eggplant on the side…and a grilled hot dog wiener?? Weird.

Snorkeling at 10:00 am. Crytal clear water, beautiful reef, lots of fish. The water was so calm, even the little guys got to participate and had an awesome time. I’m thankful their 1st snorkeling experience was so positive. Craziest thing was, there were thousands of jellyfish all around us, knocking into us, sticking to our masks. Dude took one and rubbed it all over himself to prove they were harmless and sure enough…they were harmless.

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Back to the lodge for lunch, grilled half chicken and fries…again, really good.

The boys played with the dogs and farted around in the hammock for a couple hours and we finished our time by watching them kayak out in the bay. They did a great job and had a super time.

Promptly at 3:00 pm, we were warmly sent off by State Farm lady and made our way back onto the small wooden boat, headed for the shore across the way. As we approached the shore, the contrast to where we had been for the past 24 hours was far more obvious than when we’d left. The beach was tired, strewn with trash and people, hundreds of people… but none of them vacationing. We made our way across the beach and back to the lot with the mangy dogs and out onto the road without incident.

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The ride home was quiet, I think we were all mostly just looking out the window and noticing the difference between our normal lives and this one once again.

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Finished the night with Monopoly, Spaghetti, Showers…and this post.

See you tomorrow.

John

 

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